JJ Thames ‘Tell You What I Know’ (DeChamp Records) 5/5

JJ-ThamesI’m fast approaching sixty and having bought my first soul record at the age of twelve (listening from the age of ten) you would think that I no longer get excited about a new release, or the acquisition of an illusive 45 or album from the dim and distant past – well you would be wrong. I had been waiting three long weeks for this eleven tracker to drop through the door, was the wait worth it? oh yes indeed it was. I’ll tell you now this is the best new black female voice to surface since Ann Nesby spoilt us with her first album all those years ago. A lovely mixture of ballads, strollers, mid-tempo dancers, straight soul, blues and with an overall jazzy feeling to the proceedings we are spoilt for choice. Straight then the subtle strolling dancer “Just Enough” – the bastard child of the brilliant Preston Shannon “The way that I love you” from his 2006 album “Be with me tonight” (yes its that good), Preston Shannon is huge for me and always puts bodies onto the floor, “Just enough” will go onto become as revered, I’m sure of that. Serious radio plays then for the scintillating ballad that is “Tell you what I know” up there with the likes of Jennifer Holliday “And I’m telling you”. I know I’m making comparisons but sometimes it helps to put the tracks into some modern day perspective. “I got what you need” is a southern style dancer which will appeal to some of the hard nosed crowd, I’m not going to review this album track by track, space don’t allow that, but If you buy this and you don’t get it, then I suggest you take up soot juggling, stamp collecting or some other mundane, banal past-time and leave the serious stuff to the rest of us.

Brian Goucher

Peter Edwards Trio ‘Safe and Sound’ (Edwards Music) 4/5

Peter-EdwardsYoung pianist Peter Edwards is a postgraduate of Trinity College of Music who has recorded with the Abram Wilson quartet as well as co-writing material and arranging the excellent latest album by Zara McFarlane ‘If you knew her’. Having studied under the likes of Gary Crosby and Liam Noble among others, the trio was formed by Edwards in 2010 and comprises twenty-five year old Max Luthert on the double bass and twenty-two year old Moses Boyd on the drums with the leader now in his early thirties. Peter Edwards has soaked up the influences of acoustic period Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Ahmad Jamal, yet has still managed to create his own individual sound and the all bar one original compositions are on the whole excellent, at once challenging and melodic. Immediately of interest is the delicious bass line that greets the listener on the Latin-jazz flavoured ‘Meet you at El Malecón’ on which Edwards really stretches out over a repeated bass riff. On the title track the use of repetitive piano vamps and drum rolls is reminiscent of EST and this both a deeply lyrical and soulful number. The reflective piece ‘Desdemona’s tears’ provides the opportunity for Luthert to shine with an intricate solo while Edwards muse in the background while ‘Hustle Bustle does exactly what it says on the proverbial musical tin. The trio have performed this year at the Pizza Express in Soho and the best is still very much to come with the old adage that practice makes perfect applying here. Definitely a name to watch out for in the next few years to come.

Tim Stenhouse

J.C. Sanford ‘Views from the inside’ (Whirlwind) 3/5

JC-SanfordMulti-talented trombonist and composer-conductor J.C. Sanford has undertaken a vastly ambitious project here and, if at times it is a tad too clever for its own good, it is a captivating and enthralling ride all the same. Classical and jazz traditions meet head on in terms of both the instrumentation (cor anglais, French horn and strings as well as brass and rhythm section, plus accordion for even greater eclecticism) and approach with a near symphonic piece on the fifteen minute title track. At best the influence of the great Gil Evans can be heard as on ‘Sky Good’ with vibes and a warm tenor saxophone solo from Chris Bacas. Ideally, this writer would like to hear more of this side of the large ensemble where jazz timbres reign supreme. There are definite hints of Mingus in one of the urban suite numbers, ‘Brooklyn Vignette #5’ aka ‘2nd and 7th’ with fine ensemble work from the brass that recalls ‘Scenes in the City’ and solo trombone playing from Mark Patterson. From a classical perspective, Leonard Bernstein’s influence can be heard on ‘Your word alone’ with a sound akin to a dramatic film score depicting an edgy, fast-paced urban landscape. A more reflective side is demonstrated on the gentle tranquillity of ‘Robins in snow’ with a welcome opportunity to hear Sanford the instrumentalist in full flow while on ‘An attempt at serenity’ the intro hints at the Star Trek theme while the rest ends up sounding like a suite from Holst’s ‘The Planets’. The composer has rightly gained a reputation for his writing with his compositions covered by musicians of the calibre of John Abercrombie and Dave Liebman. Creating in some parts simpler pieces would greatly enhance his work in general, but this is unquestionably a musician with a lucid vision and that is surely going to pay dividends in the near future.

Tim Stenhouse

Various ‘Far Out presents: Brazilian Bass’ (Far Out) 4/5

far-out-bassBass culture is instinctively associated with either Jamaican dub and dancehall, or else hip-hop. However, Brazil has long soaked up these external musical flavours and internalised them with elements of samba. Far Out’s latest project has had the foresight to showcase this underground scene to a wider international audience. The capital of Brazilian bass happens to be Salvador which is the main city in the state of Bahia, situated in the north-east of the country and where the African heritage reaches its highest point. It is also the land where Afro-Brazilian religious cults such as candomblé predominates and where the sensuous melodies of composer Dorival Caymmi and his multi-talented musical family prevail. It is also the state that rightly regards itself as the very essence of Brazilian culture as wonderfully illustrated by that genius of words, writer Jorge Amado in his seminal book, ‘Bahia of all the Saints’, that is required reading for all budding scholars of Brazilian culture and understanding the north-eastern Brazilian psyche.

Brazilians are, by their very nature. open-minded about the music they listen to and this is reflected in the esoteric approach to the essentially hybrid music that is contained within this new compilation. Take the example of Mental Abstrato and DJ Tahira who come across as something akin to a Brazilian equivalent of Berlin’s Jazz Kollectiv and the number ‘Balão’ features some tasty accordion and keyboard amid a lovely jazzy bass line and samba percussion. Roots reggae became very popular in Brazil and the 1970s heart of the sub-genre has been retained by Junior Dread featuring Black Alien on ‘Lutar’ which could just as easily be out of Kingston but for the Portugese lyrics. Horn-led melodic dub reigns supreme on ‘Travessias’ by Aton dub with flute adding to the mix while instrumental dub effects envelope the female vocals of Anelis on ‘Bola com os amigos’. Those who yearn for another take on rootsy clubland electronica in a Brazilian setting aka Bebel Gilberto will be at ease with the instrumental ‘Pequi week bar’ by Sistema Carolina which has some catchy, if cheesy Latin keyboard vamps and acoustic guitar accompaniment. Meanwhile fans of traditional samba will be happy that they are catered for on the brass-led ‘Samba de novato’ by Banda Escola Pública while psychedelic grooves complete with rhythm guitar predominate on ‘Blindness’ by 3 Adub featuring Pitshu. Elsewhere reggaeton and samba combine on Bemba trios’ ‘Melô do Vatapá’. Overall, a fine example of contemporary Brazilian music and expertly selected by a triumvirate of Far Out owner Joe Davis and Brazilian music aficionados Jay Joannou and Vanessa Viola.

Tim Stenhouse

Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté ‘Toumani and Sidiki’ (World Circuit) 4/5

Toumani and SidikiIf you have ever wondered how the sound of the harp might be transposed into an African context, then the West African twenty-one string kora is most certainly worth checking out and Toumani Diabaté from Mali is undoubtedly its current major practitioner. Diabaté is something of a veteran on the world roots music scene having recorded his first solo album back in 1988 and, among a host of collaborations, recorded the memorable duet album with the late great Ali Farka Touré. For this latest project he is joined by his twenty-three year old son Sidiki and this can best be described as a reposing father-son musical journey. In keeping with the Griot family tradition, the musical roots of the Diabaté family go back several generations and thus music is considered with due reverence by the close knit circle of musicians. Recorded in the Malian capital Bamako under the expert ears of Jerry Boys and co-produced by Nick Gold and Lucy Duran, this is akin to hearing the musicians perform in your living room and other than the twin sounds of the kora, no other instrumentation is required. The opening composition ‘Hamadou Toure’ sets the reflective pace and if there is any music capable of taking away the stresses and strains of daily modern life, then this is surely it. A heart warming tribute to the African migrants who paid with their lives for seeking to cross the Mediterranean is laid down on ‘Lampedusa’ while for a gradual build up of intensity and tension ‘Claudia and Salma’ could hardly be bettered. Glorious and timeless music. A UK and Irish tour will commence on 20 May including a concert at the RNCM in Manchester on 24 May and will conclude in Dublin on 7 June.

Tim Stenhouse